The count of unfilled jobs in the construction sector increased in August, reaching yet another post-Great Recession high level. The rate of open construction sector jobs also set a cyclical high.
According to the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and NAHB analysis, the number of open construction sector jobs increased to 298,000 in August. The prior post-recession high count of open, unfilled construction jobs was 275,000 in July. For August 2017, the count was 215,000.
The open position rate (job openings as a percentage of total employment plus current job openings) increased to 3.9% in August. The rate was 3% last August. On a smoothed, twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector grew slightly to 3.2%, a post-recession high. The peak (smoothed) rate during the building boom prior to the recession was just below 2.7%. For the current cycle, the sector has been above that rate since November 2016.
The overall trend for open construction jobs has been increasing since the end of the Great Recession. This is consistent with survey data indicating that access to labor remains a top business challenge for builders.
The construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a twelve-month moving average basis, declined slightly to 5%. The twelve-month moving average for layoffs fell to 2.3%. The trend for layoffs has been decreasing as the labor market tightens.
NAHB expects construction sector net hiring to continue in 2018 as the single-family construction market modestly expands. Anticipated storm repair activity in the mid-Atlantic will also increase demand for residential construction workers, while temporarily reducing demand for new builds due to delays. However, as labor remains a top cited challenge to expansion, builders will increasingly explore options to find ways to build more with less.